Florida's Medical Records Copy Charges Don't Need to Go Higher
Around the State
Sneaking like a thief into Florida consumers' pockets comes a proposal from a company looking to triple the current cost of copying patients' medical records.
HealthPort Technologies LLC is lobbying the Florida Board of Medicine to charge patients a flat $1 per page for copying their medical records -- no matter how large their medical file -- a service available at Staples, UPS, even the public library for anywhere from 5 cents to 15 cents.
The cost to copy your medical records at a Florida doctor's office today is $1 per page for the first 25 pages, then 25 cents a page after that. The rule does not apply to radiology records, which bear the actual cost of reproducing X-rays, according to EHR Intelligence, a national newsletter for electronic health records professionals. There is no charge for sending records doctor to doctor. Charges kick in when the patient, or the patient's lawyer, wants the records.
A 525-page medical record costs $150 to copy today. That's an enormous hardship for many consumers as it is. But, under the proposed increase, the cost would be $525. Think bigger, even: Consider a 1,025-page record: The $1,025 bill for that would be more than a minimum-wage worker earns in a month.
HealthPort Tecnologies, with headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., is the nation’s largest provider of release of information services and audit management and tracking technology. Getting copies of medical records for people is its only business. Company officials have yet to explain why they need such a jaw-dropping increase in Florida.
Because they can get it?
Because they want to milk more profit out of Florida, a state with 4.2 million seniors, or about 30 percent of Florida's population age 60-plus?
Understandably, AARP is opposed. Seniors are six times as likely to need copies of medical records as "younger" people, their medical records are apt to be extensive, and many are living on fixed incomes. AARP Associate Director Charles Milstead, when interviewed by The Miami Herald, said this: “For most elderly consumers, paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for such records would pose a major financial burden."
But so should other groups oppose this increase based on thin air. Parents need medical records to enroll their children in school or in a summer camp. College students need them. So do the disabled, who apply for special programs or benefits. And heaven help anybody who needs records for a court case. Lawyers, charged at a higher rate, generally pass the bill back to clients.
HealthPort's Tallahassee lobbyist Cynthia Henderson has only remarked in a letter that copying electronic records isn't as simple as it seems. “Many people mistakenly believe that production of electronic medical records is as simple as locating a file on a server and attaching it to an email and hitting send or copying it to a disc or flash drive,” she writes.
We owe a debt to Alice Vickers and the Tampa Bay Times for alerting us to HealthPort Technologies' stealth move. Vickers is an attorney who lobbies on this and other consumer protection issues for the Florida Consumer Action Network. The Times printed her exclusive story. We needed their vigilance.
Moving to a $1 per-page copying fee for medical records is a move that would make Florida's charges second only to Minnesota's (a painful $1.30 per page) as the highest in the nation. Heaven forbid Florida should be struck by a bolt of compassion and decide to match the nation's lowest copy charges -- which happen to be Kentucky's, at $0. But at the very least -- and, frankly, I don't think the least is good enough -- couldn't we freeze rates right where they are, at their current level?
Obamacare holds enough uncertainties.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.